Feeds:
Posts
Comments

In the last couple of paragraphs of this week’s reading, the author discusses how a “society configured by reliance on a few commodities accepts them as a social bond quite as much as the metropolis does the press.  Cotton and oil, like radio and TV, become fixed charges on the entire psychic life of the community.  And this pervasive fact creates the unique cultural flavor of any society.” This reminded me of a current television commercial where a young woman is sitting at a park, alone, wishing for a new cell phone. Everyone that passes her by has a newer, nicer phone than hers. Then, a young father walks by, backpacking a toddler, holding a new cell phone.  She whines “No…a baby?”  and crumples herself on the bench dismayed.

We do value our phones. For many of us, they are our “lifelines.” For us, however, most of us in our late thirties to fifity something can recall not too long ago our lives without cell phones.  We wore watches for keeping time; had alarm clocks to wake us; read black and white newspapers in the morning with our coffee, and kept a date book- an actual book. We didn’t know any better, or should I say any different.

Our students today don’t know any different. They see those “staples” as items belonging in antique shops- unnecessary because their phones mutlitask for them. Then, when they misplace or lose their phones, their entire worlds are halted and jarred; their psyches frozen in time; and like addicts run to their provider to replace their phones and start the process again.

The reading ended with C.G. Jung’s quote on slavery: that by being surrounded by slaves, the inherent psychology infected the unconscious of everyone in Rome.  Is it too far a stretch to wonder that we are surrounded by a culture addicted to their cell phones, and that since we live constantly in the that atmosphere, we shall become “infected” as well? 

Have you ever lost your phone?  Even for a little while? I have. But my world remained in tact. But I also still wear a watch, set an actual alarm clock, read paper newspapers and magazines, and have a calendar/ date book.  Just in case.

This week’s reading introduced the vision of children playing and creating with Dynabooks. It concluded with the question of “what if everyone had a Dynabook?” and if  “such a machine  were designed in a way that any owner could mold and channel its power to his own needs…”  I was reminded of my first visit to a special school for children with severe physical and learning disabilities.  After the inital shock of realizing how fragile the body truly is, and how much can cruelly go wrong in such young children, I recall being comforted watching a few non verbal children “speak” through special augmented devices.  The freedom that computers have brought our underrepresented population of children with disabilities  truly is remarkable.  Devices that read in any language, speak to teachers to answer a math problem, and allow children to make choices for lunch have given independence to so many. All our needs are vastly diverse, but the ability to communicate certainly is a powerful one we oftenimes take for granted. Just imagine a world without Professor Stephen Hawking asking big questions about the universe.  Scary. Who would those 2,123,802 people (one of his YouTube videos) be listening to  if it weren’t for text to speech technology?  How many children would be voiceless and unheard?  Yet, wait, everyone is still yet to have their own. We  still anticipate that day; when every owner can channel its power to their own needs. The possibilities seem endless.

So I read the lengthy, interesting, fun thing. And I thought about it all weekend on the beach in St. Joseph, MI.  I mesmerized how antogonizing it was to be “out of network,” when I really had believed I could get “so much accomplished” on my laptop- Friday, packing.  Haha.

 I reveled in my newfound excuse to never get work done on the weekends at the Lake. Then, I happened upon  Carol Kelly’s book of Mother Teresa’s Essential Wisdom.  It was an ahah moment:

“When you look at the inner workings of electrical things, you often see small and big wires, new and old, cheap and expensive, all lined up. Until the current passes through them there will be no light.  That wire is you and me.  The current is God.  We have the power to let the current pass thought us, use us, produce the light of the world.  Or we can refuse to be used and allow darkness to spread.”  (2006, Fall Free Press)

Yes– I believe that says it all….

#bennmfsf11

So I gave a valiant effort to concentrate on the text reading by Douglas Engelbart, my mind kept reverting back to the Twitter paper and poster.  My distraction became so intense I felt like a child trying to ignore an open cookie jar while reluctantly eating her peas. Finally, I finished the reading, decided the challenge was too great and put all my energy and excitement back into the Twitter pieces.

As an educatioanl pyschologist, I live and breath constructivism.  I also keep my approach to teaching motivated by recruiting my educational psychology students to complete challenging projects.  One year, we made a documentary at the request of  Naperville North High School; it later was broadcast on cable television, and four students presented their experience at an international conference on constructivist teachinig.  The paper was published this fall in Constructivist Teacher Education section of the JPACTe’s “Voices from the Field.”

For the past couple of years,  my students have created YouTube videos to reflect their understanding and meaning of developmental theories. Two students co-presented with me for that conference. It was well received  and is in  process for publication now with The Constructivist.  And, remarkably, one of those two students just stopped by my office this week  to see “what I am up to, and if she could work with me on a research project.”

Ahah!  It is destiny, I tell myself. I will take this study, modify it for my class and see what happens.  I am so excited I could just Tweet!!

#bennmfsf11

“Gentlemen, when we get into trouble with the machine, we cannot talk the machine back into the bottle.” ~ Norbert Wiener’s Men, Machines, and the World About.

I particularly enjoyed the last page of the reading where Weiner suggests the moral problem of the machine is not so much different from the old moral problem of magic.  As a child, my grandmother told me the story of the monkey’s paw, and I grew up cautious, if not haunted by the folklore “be careful what you wish for.” As an adult, I think it not only wise but morally responsible for each of us to contemplate what we wish for and consider the implications of our wishes on our relationships and society.

So what if we wished for a machine that would provide us safety and ultimately survival? It has come to be. In fact, in this case it’s Twitter.  Yes, Twitter.  And what if that machine were made illegal by the government? It also came to be. On September 24, 2011 The New York Times published a story where citizens of Mexico have turned to social media for information warning them of local gunmen and to-be shootings. Witness accounts on Twitter have become common despite the Veracruz’s State Assembly law that makes it a crime to use Twitter to undermine public order. This law is intended to reduce the explosion of electronic crime-sharing that both creates and destroys communities.  But how valuable would it be for residents to know where to avoid a rampage? Some 40,000 Mexican Twitter followers consider this a much needed public service; it “fills the gap left by the press.” (Hernandez, NYT). Other residents claim “People’s lives are saved by Twitter.”

But the story goes on to reveal that’s not always the case. Two weeks ago a couple was found hanging from a bridge with a sign that read “This will happen to all the Internet snitches.” Another was found on Saturday with a sign declaring she was killed for social media postings. On Thursday, another 11 bodies turned up across the city.  The state’s governor, Javier Duarte de Ochoa has pardoned two Twitter users who had sent out false messages about attacks against local schools. According to the article, he even announced it on Twitter- how ironic.

So yes, it seems the machine will not be going back into the bottle any time soon.  And yes, we should still be careful what we wish for. 

The article can be found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/25/world/americas/mexico-turns-to-twitter-and-facebook-for-information-and-survival.html?_r=1